Elsewhere by Graham Reid

music - travel - arts

Wide angle reviews, interviews and opinion by writer Graham Reid

Janka Nabay and the Bubu Gang: En Yay Sah (Luaka Bop/Southbound)

Janka Nabay and the Bubu Gang: Eh Mane Ha
Janka Nabay and the Bubu Gang: En Yay Sah (Luaka Bop/Southbound)

This excitingly duffed-up world beat/low-rent psychedelic rock has a wild urban pedigree which comes through in its stupidly different but absolutely addictive Afro-meets-Manhattan groove.

Juju goes downtown NYC via an old school Yellow Cab, parks up outside a Warhol event and pulls out incessant machine-gun groove to blow away Lou and Candy Darling.

Fronted by singer-songwriter Ahmed Janka Nabay from Sierra Leone but propelled by an alt.rock group from Brooklyn (which includes Syrian-born singer-bassist Boshra AlSaadi as melodic counterpoint to Nabay's sandpaper style), this exotically swirling, energetic and edgy debut album marries the “bubu” sound of Sierra Leone with inner city pop-psychedelics to create a heady brew of pulsing beats, weirdly disconcerting organ and piercing, textural guitar.

It is "out there" and slayed 'em at the hipper-than-thou SXSW festival this year (check the clip and imagine yourself there three beers in or toked-inna-nite).

Rastafari though? But why not right then?

By Nabay's account he resurrected and rocked up the ancient bubu/witchcraft-folk sound but, when he fled his homeland after the civil war, he ended up in New York working in fast food joints.

It's not all flat-tack and white-knuckle B-grade light show trip-adelecs however, the slower (but still psyched-out) Somebody – the only song in English – has a yearning quality as Nabay sings of his need for love and of distant Africa.

And on the title track – punctuated by electronic washes and riding a bubbling bassline – Nabay speak-sings of his faith and fears in a piece which is as mesmerizing as it is spooky.

Nabay might not have the most memorable voice, but in this street-smart sonic context where Africa-meets-block rockin' beats this is ridiculously persuasive stuff.

Much-much recommended.

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Tags: best of elsewhere 2012